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February 5, 2009

Is Poster Boy the Jesse James of Brand Naming?

PosterBoyImage.gifThe mystery around anti-advertising activist Poster Boy has got me thinking, once again, about the relationship naming and branding companies have with consumers in a world where more and more consumers see brand names as "theirs" to do what they like with.

Poster Boy is the guy who goes around New York with a razor blade, rearranging signs into grotesque parodies of themselves. Some of his work includes slicing up a McDonald's sign to read "McDorse the world" and changing the name "Iron Man" to "Iran = Nam." Overall, he has struck more than 400 times, but now he's busted.

Or is he?

The Ad Pulp blog quotes from Poster Boy's Flickr page: "Poster Boy is many things, but is not one person. Poster Boy is not about subway posters or even adverts in general. Poster Boy is an idea."

It could be, and probably is, that Poster Boy is simply a name attached to many people out there playing with advertising by either deconstructing it or turning it into weird art.

Not surprisingly, some marketing people are enthusiastic about Poster Boy, saying "Surely if we're helping brands become more real, believable, genuinely useful and honest then this kind of expression is quite beautiful, and not at all scary."

So many ad campaigns today solicit consumer participation, which sooner or later will make it hard to go back to when consumers were asked to observe before acting. Now, with today's technology, consumers have endless opportunities to interact with brand names and the advertising that goes with them.

The very fact that branding is taken seriously as street art is rather encouraging. But the bottom line is, most advertising begs consumers to pay attention. This guy, or perhaps group, is accomplishing that very goal.

I doubt we have heard the last of Poster Boy.

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Posted by William Lozito at February 5, 2009 9:42 AM
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